UNM CC Researcher Wins Distinguished Award

News Release


Dr. Maggie Werner-Washburne honored April 8 in Cambridge, Mass.

Albuquerque, NM—April 15, 2011— Maggie Werner-Washburne, Regents’ Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico and a member of the UNM Cancer Center, has been honored by the Harvard Foundation for her exceptional scholarship and service in the sciences. On April 8, Dr. Werner-Washburne accepted the Foundation’s 2011 Distinguished Scientist Award at a special luncheon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and subsequently took part in Harvard’s annual Albert Einstein Science Conference, which connects socioeconomically and culturally diverse high school and middle school students with Harvard faculty and college students in the sciences.

Since 1992, the Harvard Foundation has annually honored one internationally noted scientist for his or her scientific achievements and dedication to upholding and promoting scientific standards. Past recipients of the Foundation’s Distinguished Scientist Award include Nobel laureate and ozone chemist Dr. Mario Molina, neurotoxin researcher Dr. Baldomero Olivera, inspirational mathematics teacher Mr. Jaime Escalante (ofStand and Deliverfame) and pioneering astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison.

“The UNM Cancer Center is incredibly proud of Dr. Werner-Washburne,” said Dr. Cheryl Willman, Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center. “She is not only a scientist of international renown, but also an extraordinary mentor whose encouragement and inspiration have led hundreds of UNM students to embrace and pursue science at the highest level.”

“It is a great pleasure and honor to receive this award,” said Dr. Werner-Washburne, who has been a UNM faculty member since 1988 and was named Regents’ Professor in 2009. “I believe fully in the work of the Harvard Foundation to celebrate and foster excellence across our diverse society. My hope is that the Distinguished Scientist Award brings attention to the value of diverse perspectives in science and highlights the work we do at UNM to engage students from every background in scientific inquiry and careers.”

Dr. Werner-Washburne’s scientific research centers on the stationary phase of yeast, in which there is an important cell differentiation process long overlooked by researchers focused on actively growing cells. As Dr. Werner-Washburne has shown, this stationary phase, also known as quiescence, holds valuable clues about such fundamental biological processes as aging and the division and differentiation of stem cells. At any given time, most of the planet’s cells are “resting” in a quiescent state.

Dr. Werner-Washburne’s groundbreaking research uses genomics and other techniques to better understand how quiescence develops and is regulated at a cellular level. Her work provides insight into the activation, proliferation and potential for therapeutic de-activation of cancer cells.

Since 2004, Dr. Werner-Washburne has directed UNM’s Initiatives to Maximize Student Diversity (IMSD), an NIH-funded mentoring program geared to undergraduates and graduate students in the sciences. In the past seven years, IMSD has produced 20 minority PhDs and, as of this fall, can claim 30 students in top graduate programs nationwide. “I think we have been successful because we work with everyone,” noted Dr. Werner-Washburne. “When diversity works, it means that everyone’s voice is heard.”

In addition to the Harvard Foundation’s 2011 Distinguished Scientist Award, Dr. Werner-Washburne has earned many national, regional and university honors for her scientific contributions and service to students. A few of these include: Outstanding Faculty Award, Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color (2010); Fellow, American Society for the Advancement of Science (2006); Distinguished Scientist Award, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in the Sciences (2005); Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring (2004); Outstanding Latina Scientist, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2003); and Special Service Award, National Science Foundation (1999).

About the UNM Cancer Center

The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in the state. One of just 66 NCI-designated cancer centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence, contributions to cancer research and delivery of medical advances to patients and their families. It is home to 85 board-certified oncology physicians representing every cancer specialty and more than 125 research scientists hailing from such prestigious institutions as M.D. Anderson, Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 65 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. In 2010, it provided care to more than 15,800 cancer patients. The Center’s research programs are supported by over $59 million annually in federal and private funding.

UNM Cancer Center contact information

Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, (505) 797-6673, dhornbeck@jameskorenchen.com Audrey Manring, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 925-0486, amanring@salud.unm.edu

Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322

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